“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV).
It just did not make sense what I was feeling inside of me in that season. I had a stable job – earning sufficient income, I was thriving in my education, I had friends and family, I was traveling & socializing. When I examined myself externally, I could not figure out what was responsible for the way I was feeling on the inside. In my opinion, I was living the dream even with the presence of some day-to-day challenges that life presented.
I knew that I was dealing with my share of disappointment from some people around me and still had some residue of emotions from a long-term relationship that ended without closure. I knew that I was going through a difficult time emotionally but nothing I was dealing with at the time warranted the darkness I was feeling inside of me. I found myself often needing to gasp for air to avoid choking and at times, managing my emotions was almost impossible – I resorted to crying.
I experienced anxiety; I felt afraid sometimes and worried a lot. I could not stay happy and always craving for something exciting to help me escape from the cave I was in. After battling with this for a little while, my symptoms began to worsen. I was not just feeling desperate and distracted but I started feeling a lack of purpose in life. I started loosing my desire to engage in fun activities. Most of the time, I looked for opportunities to be alone so I could cry to comfort myself.
My symptoms led me to the path of self-diagnosis. I was convinced that I was suffering from depression. Wait!. Did I just mention depression?. How did I even arrive at that? A girl born and raised in Africa; in a society where most of us are taught that whatever happens to us in life is God’s will for us?. How in the world could I blame my ailment to depression and not first consider if God had anything to do with it?
Anyway, to prove that I was not insane, I visited the doctor hoping he could confirm my assumption. I would admit that I was more confused when I left the presence of the doctor than before I went in to see him. He spent some time talking to me about the symptoms that I was feeling but the more I tried to express myself; the more puzzled his countenance got. After few attempts to make sense of what I was describing, he simply said “Ms. Badjan, I will prescribe some anxiety medication for you to help you sleep better and manage the episodes however; I would like for you to return for a follow up if the symptoms persist or worsen”. I think my visage and body language somewhat sent a signal to him that I was not satisfied with his conclusion. So he felt a need to add: “to tell you honestly, I really cannot put my finger on what is going on with you today based on your description. With that said, my recommendation for today is to try a couple of medications and regroup three weeks from now if needed to discuss next steps”. I left his office very dissatisfied and disappointed. I knew I was suffering from depression, how can he not recognize it as a trained professional? It is interesting as I look back today that I was more frustrated with the doctor than with myself.
In the midst of that tumult and chaos, a friend of mine whom I met at work decided to talk with me about “giving my life to God” so I could receive salvation. The first thought that occurred to me was definitely that she needed to visit my doctor because she was not making any sense at all. I was already a Christian and she knew it. I was born and raised in the Church and very regular in my attendance. I had shared with her my level of commitment to the different groups in the Church. I prayed religiously and knew that I believed in God. “So what was she talking about?”, I asked myself over and again. I felt insulted, I felt that I was being judged by someone who thought she had arrived and was “righteous”. Her invitation to salvation was very offensive to me so needless to say, I made the decision to keep my distance and never entertain the conversation around God, religion and faith.
I would admit that this friend had wisdom!. She evaluated my reaction and decided that she would refrain from the invitation but continue to show love, listen patiently to my griping, and serve as a voice of reasoning when I got irrational about circumstances. Then, she started sharing some familiar bible stories but explained them in a way that I was able to relate to them. I gradually went from a position of resistance to her Christian philosophy to longing for those learning moments. I started craving for more and because of my curious nature, I started to read the same stories she shared with me on my own. Then I began to gravitate towards an idea that occurred to me. I decided that since the stories helped me to manage my episodes better, I would just spend time reading for comfort.
One day, I was awakened from sleep at an odd hour of the night. At first I panicked that maybe I was going to have those feelings of fear, loneliness or anxiety again. I was surprised this time; this was a moment for self-exploration and deep meditation. In my reflection, I thought: “maybe I am not depressed after all. Maybe I am just longing for something I am missing. Maybe my friend is right. Yes I am a Christian but I don’t have a personal relationship with God. Maybe I need to consider her proposal. Maybe I should give it a try”. Needless to say, when I arrived to work the next morning, I shared my decision to consider her proposal. A few days later, we went to a Church service together and that was the beginning of a turn around for me. I watched others in the congregation in amazement and processed every word that was being uttered. At the end of the service, when the altar call was made, I hesitantly walked to the front to accept the invitation to salvation.
The step I had taken to respond to the voice of God that was calling me ushered me into a new phase in my life’s journey. With time spent reading the word, listening to messages of preaching of the word of God, praying and attending bible classes, I began to gain more in-depth understanding of my Christian faith. The vague thoughts of emptiness I felt started to dissipate. My decision to give my life to God and surrender to His will led me to a place of security. I began to experience the scripture found in the book of Hebrews which states: “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires”. Hebrews 4:12 (NLT).
Several years into this journey of faith, I now understand that what I was feeling was spiritual emptiness. I have come to realize that emptiness is not an easy emotion to describe especially if it has anything to do with God’s absence in one’s life. Even though I would admit that depression does exist and needs to be treated medically; my case was different. I was not suffering from depression rather I was going through ‘repression’. I am just grateful that God prevented the doctor from pronouncing a condition over my life and even more grateful that I had not taken any of the medication prescribed. Looking back at the past through the windows of my heart, I can see that I had adopted and accepted the weight of the world which prevented me from receiving the grace that God had in store for me. Yes, I was a regular Church goer and a devout Christian in my opinion yet, I lacked a personal relationship and trust in God. I was living my life according to the world’s standard which pushed me out of alignment so I could not experience the peace of God and the fruitfulness that comes with living in obedience.
Today, I understand the difference between happiness (an emotion) and Joy (an experience). Entrusting my life to God does not mean that I am free from trouble rather; it just means that I have weapons (the word of God, prayer, faith) to fight what comes against me. I feel like life is a constant battle however; it is comforting to know that I am not walking alone. And yes, I do not know what tomorrow holds for me, but I know who holds my tomorrow. It is so comforting to know that when we surrender to God, we are assured love and protection. His grace, which is sufficient for us, allows us to smile in the midst of the storm. God has you in the palm of His hand. We should just let go of our desire to be in control, He is in control.
You would agree with me that we are all created for something and God’s desire for us is to see us flourish and walk in purpose. I do not know what season you are in, but I know that God is in the midst of the season. I invite you to take a deeper walk with God. I want to leave you with an empowering scripture to help facilitative your transition into a place of solace. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV).